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I-540 Toll Road Closer To Lawmakers' Final Approval

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RALEIGH, N.C. — State lawmakers are close to giving final approval to a bill that would allow the first toll road to be built in North Carolina -- and the Triangle area.

A joint House-Senate committee is currently considering Senate Bill 1381/House Bill 1828, which would allow a toll facility to be built on Interstate 540 from Interstate 40 to N.C. Highway 55 in Wake and Durham counties.

Under current law, only newly constructed roads can have tolls, but the bill being considered repeals the statute to allow for adding a toll to the I-540 extension.

"If you put a toll on an existing road that's already paid for, then the public has to pay for it twice: once through gas taxes, once through tolls," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said. "And that really is just too much."

Legislators, however, have said the state has a $30 billion road-construction shortfall and that tolls are desperately needed.

"We're right now only funding 75 percent of our needs, so where do we go for the money? The only alternative is tolls," said Rep. Nelson Cole, D- Rockingham.

Tolls, however, could be part of the solution for the growing population in Wake County. A Blue-Ribbon Committee appointed to assess the infrastructure needs recommended tolls to accommodate an estimated 1.4 million population estimate within the next 25 years.

"The General Assembly is wide open to looking at anything that is a viable solution to the problem," said Sen. Clark Jenkins, D-Tarboro. "We can't keep waiting and waiting and waiting to get this stuff built."

If the House and Senate work out their differences, there could be tolls on this new section of I-540 as early as next year.